LWV-LC Testimony Regarding Redistricting at Lake County Board Meeting 6-14-11
Many of you are familiar with the League of Women Voters. We work with Willard on voter registration. We have held non-partisan candidate forums for many of you when you ran for office. And then, we also advocate on issues such as: transparency in government. This past year, at the state level, the League worked with a number of organizations to try to get the Fair Map Amendment passed, which the Republican Party supported.
When Chairman Stolman contacted the League along with two other organizations MALDEF and the NAACP, we were happy with the prospect of being involved with the redistricting process. He assured us it would not be political and would not be a repeat of Springfield's shenanigans. Each of you was sent an email of our expectations for the process.
So now today, the full County Board is being asked to vote on the map that the Reapportionment Committee has proposed and approved last week.
The other day, there was a news article that Mr. Stolman said the three organizations, MALDEF, NAACP and the League of Women Voters, found the map to be fair. I am here to dispel any misconceptions about our reactions to the proposed map. The three organizations do believe that the map complies with the Voting Rights Act, and having 4 districts for minority voters is fair. However, we do not believe that the lack of transparency, lack of public notice, and lack of public input is fair. And then there is the gerrymandering! Unfortunately, the Reapportionment Committee did exactly what Mr. Stolman said they would not do: they based the districts on politics and they used Springfield's play book. The only difference was that it was the Republicans not the Democrats.
Years ago, someone who rose pretty high in state government explained that politics was helping your friends and hurting your enemies.
Let's look at some questionable parts of the map. See the northern boundary of District 8. There is a little 2 block section that has been cut out of District 8 and included in District 2. Who does that help and who does that hurt? Or do you really think that small area was excluded to get the population count right?
Let's look at another area. Part of the redistricting process is to keep a municipality intact, so uniting Grayslake into one district seems like a good idea. Although nearby Round Lake Beach is divided into 3 districts, and Gurnee is divided into 4 districts. But currently Grayslake has 2 Democratic incumbents who now will have to face off against each other. And on the eastern side of the county, we find another new district with 2 incumbent Democrats - Audrey Nixon and Angelo Kyle. One would think with a Board of 13 Republican and 10 Democrats, the odds would be that 2 Republicans would be in the same district or possibly one Republican and one Democrat.
Now, for interesting gerrymandering, let's look at the southeast corner, districts 12, 13 and 21. District 21 has become ever more ridiculous than before. Poor little Deerfield was in one district, now is in three. Part of it has been combined with Lake Forest. Lake Forest's natural partner of Lake Bluff has been cut off into a new District combined with parts of North Chicago, Waukegan, and Gurnee. What exactly do those communities share in common? If Susan Gravenhorst weren't retiring, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff would not be separated. So again, who benefits? and who gets hurt?
I think we should just acknowledge that this map was not drawn to benefit the residents of Lake County, but instead, was indeed political to help the majority party. Let's hope that the next time around, we have a better process that serves the people, and allows them to vote for their representatives, and does not just protect the jobs of the incumbents in the majority party.